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The Debt Ceiling Deadline Has Passed, And Now The Biggest Test Of Donald Trump’s Presidency Begins…

Trump First Weekly Address - Public DomainOn Wednesday, the temporary suspension of the debt ceiling ended, and so now the federal government is not going to be able to go into any more debt until the debt ceiling is raised.  For the moment, the Trump administration can implement “emergency measures” to stay under the debt limit, but it won’t be too long before we get to a major crisis point because the federal government is quickly running out of cash.  Already, the U.S. Treasury has less cash on hand than Apple or Google, and that cash balance is going to keep on dropping until the debt ceiling is finally lifted.

You may remember that the debt ceiling became a major issue a couple of times during the Obama years.  Last time around, Barack Obama and the Republicans in Congress agreed to a horrendous deal which suspended the debt ceiling until several months after the 2016 election

Since President Barack Obama signed the “Bipartisan Budget Act” on Nov. 2, 2015 there had been no legal limit on the amount of money the federal government could borrow until now. That law included a section entitled “Temporary Extension of Public Debt Limit.” It said that the law imposing a limit on the federal debt “shall not apply for the period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act and ending on March 15, 2017.”

During the 16 and a half months between the signing of that deal and today, the U.S. national debt rose by a whopping $1,414,397,000,000.

But now the U.S. national debt will not be allowed to rise by another penny until the debt ceiling is raised or suspended once again.

The Trump administration is pushing hard to get the debt ceiling raised, and this is a complete reversal from how Donald Trump felt about the debt ceiling back in 2013.  The following comes from the L.A. Times

Trump sided with hard-liners in 2013, publicly opposing an increase. “I cannot believe the Republicans are extending the debt ceiling — I am a Republican & I am embarrassed!” he tweeted then.

Trump was actually right about the debt ceiling in 2013, and he is wrong now.

We simply cannot afford to keep adding trillions of dollars to the national debt.  What we are doing to future generations of Americans is beyond criminal, because we are literally destroying their future just so that we can enjoy an inflated standard of living that we do not deserve today.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has already begun to implement “extraordinary measures” to keep us under the debt ceiling.  The first step that was taken was the suspension of the sale of SLGS securities

“Today,” Mnuchin wrote, “Treasury is announcing that it will suspend the sale of State and Local Government Series (SLGS) securities. SLGS are special-purpose Treasury securities issued to states and municipalities to assist them in conforming to certain tax rules. These securities count against the debt limit. The suspension of SLGS sales will commence on March 15, 2017, and continue until the debt limit is either raised or suspended. As in the past, it is likely Treasury will utilize additional extraordinary measures.”

The federal government will be able to keep going for a little while by implementing such “extraordinary measures”, but the Treasury cash balance is going to continue to dwindle and at some point a major squeeze is going to happen.

As things get tighter and tighter, the Trump administration will become increasingly desperate to get the debt ceiling raised.  As I wrote about yesterday, the key for Trump is going to be finding 218 votes in the House of Representatives that will be willing to go along with him.

You would think that since Republicans control the House that this should be easy, but the truth is that there are a lot of conservative Republicans that are not inclined to agree to a debt ceiling increase without substantial accompanying budget cuts.

The proposed budget that Trump released this week is getting a lot of criticism from the left for cuts to social programs, but the truth is that it actually doesn’t reduce the deficit at all

President Trump’s “skinny” budget blueprint for 2018 features a proposed $54 billion increase in defense spending and an equal number of spending cuts from the smallest part of the federal budget.

That means his changes won’t add to next year’s projected $487 billion deficit. But they won’t reduce it, either.

And remember, that “$487 billion” figure is just for show.  During the Obama years the U.S. national debt increased by an average of well over a trillion dollars a year, and that is almost certainly going to continue for years to come as long as the debt ceiling is raised.

Republicans are supposed to be the party of fiscal responsibility.

So now is their big test.

If they raise the debt ceiling and continue adding more than a trillion dollars a year to the national debt, they will lose all credibility with conservative voters on fiscal issues.

But if they try to force the federal government to start living within its means that is going to severely harm the economy in the short-term.

Donald Trump is going to have to try to figure out a way to navigate this crisis.  He has already promised that he will not touch Social Security and Medicare, and those are the two biggest drivers of our budget deficits.  In fact, it is being projected that entitlement spending and interest on the debt will eat up every single penny that the federal government takes in within 20 years.

So if Trump won’t touch the big entitlement programs, where will he possibly find enough cuts to satisfy the fiscal conservatives in Congress?

Without them, Trump does not have enough votes to raise the debt ceiling.

In addition, many of the conservatives in Congress absolutely hate the new Republican health care plan, and they hope to use this debt ceiling crisis as leverage to change the bill.

If Trump can’t work out something with conservatives, perhaps he could turn to the Democrats.  But most Democrats are extremely resistant to work with him on anything after all that has been said and done, and so for Trump to get a deal with them he would have to make extreme concessions.

This represents the biggest political test for the Trump presidency so far, and if we get down the road a couple of months and nothing gets done, this debt ceiling crisis could spark the kind of financial crisis that I describe in my novel entitled “The Beginning Of The End“.

Barack Obama pushed things right to the brink a couple of times, but he was savvy enough politically to never let things go over the edge.

Now it is Trump’s turn, and somehow he has got to find a way to get the debt ceiling raised without making extremely deep compromises that would gut the rest of his agenda.

And he had better get to work on this quickly, because time is running out and the clock is ticking…

Retail Apocalypse Gains Momentum As David Stockman Warns ‘Everything Will Grind To A Halt’ After March 15th

Retail Apocalypse 2017 - Public DomainJ.C. Penney and Family Christian Stores are the latest retail giants to announce widespread store closings. As you will see below, J.C. Penney plans to close between 130 and 140 stores, and Family Christian is closing all of their 240 stores. In recent months the stock market has been absolutely soaring, and so most people have simply assumed that the “real economy” must be doing well. But that is not the case at all. In fact, the retail apocalypse that I have been documenting for quite some time appears to be gaining momentum.

J.C. Penney is not in as rough shape as Sears is just yet, but it is definitely on a similar trajectory. In the end, they are both headed for bankruptcy. That is why it wasn’t too much of a surprise when J.C. Penney announced that they are getting rid of about 6,000 workers and closing at least 130 stores

J.C. Penney (JCP) plans to close 130 to 140 stores and offer buyouts to 6,000 workers as the department-store industry sags in competition with online sellers and nimble niche retailers.

The company said Friday that it would shutter 13% to 14% of its locations and introduce new goods and services aimed at the shifting preferences of its customer base.

Meanwhile, many observers were quite surprised when Family Christian Stores decided to fold up shop for good. They were known as the largest Christian retailer on the entire planet, but now after 85 years they are going out of business forever

Family Christian, which bills itself as the “world’s largest retailer of Christian-themed merchandise,” announced Thursday it is closing after 85 years.

The non-profit company, employing more than 3,000 people in 240 stores in 36 states, said in a brief statement that the retailer had been facing declining sales since filing for bankruptcy protection in 2015 and had no choice but to shut down.

These two announcements are part of larger trend that we have been witnessing all over the country. As I have documented previously, Macy’s announced that it would be closing 100 stores earlier this year, and about the same time Sears said that it would be closing another 150 stores.

Back in 2010, Sears had a staggering 3,555 stores.

Before their recent announcement, Sears was down to 1,503 stores, and now this latest round of cuts will leave them with somewhere around 1,350.

Of course it won’t be too long before Sears has zero stores, and my regular readers know that I have been talking about the demise of Sears for a very long time.

The cold, hard truth of the matter is that the “real economy” is a total mess, and that is one of the primary reasons why these ridiculous stock market valuations that we are seeing right now are not sustainable.

One expert that agrees with my assessment is former Reagan Administration White House Budget Director David Stockman. In a recent interview, he explained why he believes that “everything will grind to a halt” after March 15th…

Stockman, who wrote a book titled “Trumped” predicting a Trump victory in 2016, says, “I don’t think there is a snowball’s chance in the hot place that’s going to happen. This is delusional. This is the greatest suckers’ rally of all time. It is based on pure hopium and not any analysis at all as what it will take to push through a big tax cut. Donald Trump is in a trap. Today the debt is $20 trillion. It’s 106% of GDP. . . .Trump is inheriting a built-in deficit of $10 trillion over the next decade under current policies that are built in. Yet, he wants more defense spending, not less. He wants drastic sweeping tax cuts for corporations and individuals. He wants to spend more money on border security and law enforcement. He’s going to do more for the veterans. He wants this big trillion dollar infrastructure program. You put all that together and it’s madness. It doesn’t even begin to add up, and it won’t happen when you are struggling with the $10 trillion of debt that’s coming down the pike and the $20 trillion that’s already on the books.”

Then, Stockman drops this bomb and says:

“I think what people are missing is this date, March 15th 2017. That’s the day that this debt ceiling holiday that Obama and Boehner put together right before the last election in October of 2015. That holiday expires. The debt ceiling will freeze in at $20 trillion. It will then be law. It will be a hard stop. The Treasury will have roughly $200 billion in cash. We are burning cash at a $75 billion a month rate. By summer, they will be out of cash. Then we will be in the mother of all debt ceiling crises. Everything will grind to a halt. I think we will have a government shutdown. There will not be Obama Care repeal and replace. There will be no tax cut. There will be no infrastructure stimulus. There will be just one giant fiscal bloodbath over a debt ceiling that has to be increased and no one wants to vote for.”

In that same interview, Stockman also predicted that “markets will easily correct by 20% and probably a lot more“, and he noted the glaring disconnect between current stock prices and how the U.S. economy is actually performing

“The S&P 500 has been trading at 26 times earnings while earnings have been dropping for the past six or seven quarters. There is no booming recovery coming. There is going to be a recession and there will be no stimulus baton to bail it out. That is the new fact that neither Trump nor the Wall Street gamblers remotely understand.”

It is very difficult to argue with Stockman on this.

There are some people out there that seem to think that Donald Trump can miraculously turn the U.S. economy around just because he is Donald Trump.

It doesn’t work that way.

We are 20 trillion dollars in debt, and we are currently adding about a trillion dollars a year to that total. There is no possible way that Trump can cut taxes, increase military spending, build a border wall, spend much more on veterans and spend an extra trillion dollars on rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure.

We are flat broke as a nation and there simply is not money available to do everything that Donald Trump wants to do.

So we shall see what happens after March 15th.  Unfortunately, I happen to agree with Stockman that economic reality is about to come knocking and Trump and his supporters are about to get a very rude wake up call.

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